Susan Mitchell and Simon Osborne outline the main rules on a new payment which, from April, will replace additional statutory paternity pay in England, Scotland and Wales.
A new statutory payment for working couples or parents has been introduced, called statutory shared parental pay (SSPP). SSPP, together with the new statutory shared parental leave, is part of a policy package aimed at ‘encouraging shared parenting from the earliest stages of pregnancy’ (and presumably of adoption).
Where the expected week of childbirth begins (or the adoption placement occurs) on or after 5 April 2015, SSPP can be paid to eligible employees by their employers (and in some circumstances their former employers) following the birth or adoption of a child.
SSPP replaces additional statutory paternity pay (SPP); ‘ordinary SPP’ becomes just ‘SPP’.
SSPP can only be paid if the ‘mother’ or the ‘adopter’ of a child:
•is entitled to statutory maternity pay (SMP), statutory adoption pay (SAP) or maternity allowance (MA) based on her own employment or self-employment. (But for a mother to qualify for SSPP herself she must be entitled to SMP); and
•reduces the period over which s/he is paid SMP, SAP or MA from the maximum of 39 weeks; and
•shares the main care of the child with her/his ‘partner’ and they both agree to the SSPP claim.
The number of weeks for which SSPP can be paid is equal to the number of weeks by which the SMP, SAP or MA has been reduced. SSPP cannot be paid for more than 37 weeks because the mother cannot reduce her SMP or MA for this purpose until two weeks after the birth (or four weeks if she works in a factory). The adopter cannot reduce her/his SAP until two weeks after the adoption placement.
If both the mother/adopter and her/his partner satisfy the qualifying conditions, they both may claim SSPP from their respective employers. However, if they both claim, they must split the available weeks of SSPP between them, in whatever way they choose. For example, a mother chooses to get SMP for eight weeks, which leaves 31 weeks’ maximum SSPP entitlement. She then decides to claim SSPP for 10 weeks, and her partner claims SSPP for 21.
An employee can claim the weeks of SSPP over a continuous period or over a number of shorter periods, provided the period(s) fall before the child’s first birthday or before the first anniversary of the adoption placement. If both the mother/adopter and her/his partner qualify and they choose to both claim it, it can be paid to them for the same or different periods.
‘Mother’, ‘adopter’ and ‘partner’
In this article, ‘mother’ refers to someone entitled to MA or SMP (rather than an adoptive mother). ‘Adopter’ means the adopter (or joint adopter) who is entitled SAP. ‘Partner’ is the person with whom the mother or adopter shares the main care of the child and who is either the father of the child (for SSPP (birth) only), or the spouse or civil partner of the mother or adopter, or someone with whom s/he and the child live in an ‘enduring family relationship’ (but not the spouse’s or adopter’s parent or adoptive parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece or nephew, including such a half blood relative). Note: an adopter’s partner may have jointly adopted the child with her/him.
Who is entitled
To get SSPP from an employer, the claimant:
•must have been employed continuously by the employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of confinement (or by the end of the week in which notification of the adoption match is received). S/he also must have continued in that employment until the week before her/his first period of SSPP begins; and
•must have average weekly gross earnings at least equal to the lower earnings limit for national insurance contributions (£112 week for 2015/16) during the ‘relevant period’. (The relevant period is the same as for SMP, SPP and SAP); and
•must have given appropriate notice to the employer, and not be working for that employer, apart from ‘in touch’ days (see below). S/he also may not get SSPP if s/he is working for another employer; and
•must intend to care for the child during each week of SSPP; and
•if s/he is the mother or adopter of the child, s/he must qualify for SMP or SAP, have reduced the period over which SMP or SAP is paid (see below), and her/his partner must satisfy the ‘earnings and employment tests’ (see below); or
•if s/he is the mother or adopter’s partner, the mother/adopter must qualify for MA, SMP or SAP and have reduced the period over which that MA, SMP or SAP is paid and the mother/adopter must satisfy the ‘earnings and employment tests’ (in most cases s/he will do so).
Employment and earnings tests
The employment and earnings tests are the same as those for MA for mothers who qualify on the basis of their own employment or self-employment (see CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook
for details). Note that for SSPP (adoption), the 66-week period used for the test is the 66 weeks before the week the adopter was notified of the adoption match.
Ending SMP, SAP or MA
The mother or adopter must reduce the period over which s/he gets SMP, SAP or MA by giving, at least eight weeks before s/he wants the SMP, SAP or MA to end, a written ‘curtailment notice’ to her/his employer (for SMP or SAP) or a ‘curtailment notification’ (which does not have to be in writing) to the office dealing with the MA claim. For MA, the DWP has discretion to accept less notice than this. The curtailment notice (or notification) must specify a ‘curtailment date’ which cannot be less than one week before the end of the maternity pay, adoption pay or MA period.
If the mother or adopter gets SMP or SAP from more than one employer, each one must be given a curtailment notice, and the date given to each employer must fall in the same week.
If a curtailment notice or notification has been given, the mother/adopter’s partner can qualify for SSPP even while s/he is still getting SMP, SAP or MA. However, a mother or adopter cannot get SSPP until her/his maternity or adoption pay period has ended.
Work and SSPP
A claimant can do up to 20 days’ work for the employer who is paying SSPP whout her/ his SSPP being affected. These days are referred to as ‘shared parental leave in touch’ (or SPLIT) days.
If a claimant works for another employer who is not liable to pay SSPP, her/his entitlement to SSPP may be affected. SSPP is not affected by work on a self-employed basis, provided the claimant is still caring for the child.
Claims and payments
SSPP is claimed from and paid by the claimant’s employer. The claimant must give the employer written notice and certain information, including a declaration from (if the claimant is the mother/adopter) her/his partner or (if the claimant is the partner) the mother/adopter. The notice and information must be given at least eight weeks before the date her/his first period of SSPP is to start, although if s/he wants to vary the dates SSPP is paid, the claimant can do so, provided eight weeks’ notice is given.
SSPP is normally paid in the same way and at the same time intervals as the claimant’s normal wages or salary.
SSPP is £138.18 a week, or 90 per cent of the claimant’s average weekly earnings, whichever is less. Note that during the first six weeks of SMP and SAP entitlement, SMP and SAP are paid at the 90 per cent rate, with no maximum, and so sometimes may be more than SSPP (this only applies to SAP if the adoption pay period begins on or after 5 April 2015).
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